Interview: How 250ok is Helping Marketers Optimize Email Performance
This Q&A was designed to help marketers understand the importance of selecting an email analytics and deliverability partner.
Being responsible for email deliverability, authentication, and reputation management isn’t something I enjoy about running an email program. But it is one of the areas I’m most serious about.
Whether you are running a mature email program or in the early stages of building one for a growing business, you should strongly consider a proactive strategy for monitoring your inboxing placement rates, sender reputation, and subscriber engagement analytics.
It’s scary how many people still don’t realize that your ESP doesn’t give you this information. The deliverability percent you see is just a calculation of emails sent minus bounces. Therefore, what you are seeing is the number of emails successfully delivered and not the reality of what the mailbox providers (ex: Gmail, Yahoo, AOL) did with those messages once they were received.
In other words, most people only monitor the gross number of emails deployed and not the net number of emails inboxed. And the truth is that there are many variables that affect the inboxing rates. Each mailbox provider has their own algorithm for deciding how many of their customers should receive your emails (i.e. how good your content is and whether it’s worthy of being inboxed). Managing your deliverability across email clients is akin to managing your SEO page ranking across different search engines. And in both cases, you are generally rewarded or penalized based on the quality of your content and the classiness of your tactics.
Several vendors provide tools and support for monitoring your reputation as well as solving issues when they arise. Most of the time, people only seek out these vendors when they see their open and click rates plummet and are alerted by a consultant about the likelihood of a damaged reputation. In some cases, it’s a serious problem that can take months or even years to dig yourself out of.
Historically, Return Path was the best bet for reliable tools that can help you diagnose the reality of what’s happening in the inbox across mailbox providers. And while their product may not be affordable for some small companies, they have great customer support, some proprietary features, and direct relationships with many email clients. Disclaimer: I’ve used Return Path for several brands I managed email programs for and was a happy customer.
That said, a few years ago, we switched Grammarly’s inbox monitoring from Return Path to 250ok, a newer email analytics and deliverability technology brand on the scene. I’ve enjoyed the relationship and watching their company rise to stand toe to toe with Return Path as an attractive alternative for savvy marketers who know the true cost of deliverability issues.
In support of 10 Billion Emails, my new series on building thoughtful email programs, I decided to interview 250ok. My hope is that it will provide a look behind the curtain and some much-needed context for anybody who is eager to better understand their true inboxing stats. I also asked Return Path if they would like to participate in this interview (so that I could provide a side-by-side comparison to marketers), but they declined.
Below is the majority of the interview. NOTE: The full transcript will be available to readers who unlock my full series.
I hope you find their responses compelling, transparent, and helpful.
When was your company founded and by whom?
250ok was founded in 2011 by former ExactTarget email deliverability manager Greg Kraios.
What is your company’s mission?
250ok is leading the way in email intelligence by responsibly and ethically collecting email data, and providing analysis and reporting via a single-point solution for the most demanding of senders. Our platform will continue to lead through our commitment to innovation, and our total value will exceed the expectations of those we serve through our dedication to customer satisfaction — for the benefit of all, senders and receivers alike.
Anything you want to call out about your brand or company culture?
Our company culture is entrepreneurial in spirit, with a focus on building innovative products for our customers without forgetting to have a little fun while doing it. We believe in hiring talented people who care about their craft and care about others, then giving them the freedom to be themselves. We take a great deal of pride in honesty, transparency, and education, building trust in the email marketing community.
We operate by this culture. It’s ingrained in our products, services, and everything we do.
What is your core product and what type of pricing model do you have?
Our core product is our platform. We’ve built a single-point solution allowing our customers to gather advanced insights into email deliverability, sender reputation, fraud protection, and consumer engagement. The 250ok platform comprises several product suites that work together: 250ok Inbox and 250ok Reputation/Blacklist monitoring, which aid in deliverability, 250ok DMARC for email security monitoring, 250ok Design for email rendering, and 250ok Analytics for engagement tracking. In early 2019, we expect to add an industry-first innovative email validation product to market.
Our pricing model for the platform is straightforward — it’s based on the estimated annual mail volume for our customers. We avoid nickel-and-dime pricing by refusing to charge for a specific number of seed or rending events per month, or number of IPs and domains that can be monitored.
What makes your core product unique compared to other tools in your space?
Our platform was built from the ground up in-house to be a vast improvement over the leading market alternative. Our products work together to increase efficiency and effectiveness in ease of manipulation and control of email data, increased speed to insights, onboarding speed and power, and centralized expert support.
But it’s not just the platform, it’s how we go about our business, from the ethical standards we uphold, to the passion for customer satisfaction, the desire to be a true ally to the serious email sender.
In practical terms,how do marketers set up your tool(s) and what type of ongoing attention or maintenance is needed?
As part of our onboarding process, new customers can harness the power of 250ok Experts from the minute they gain access to their account, thanks to a comprehensive guided onboarding process to optimize the platform to each customer’s needs, along with quarterly check-ins to boost confidence.
Over the first month, the 250ok team works directly with customers to better understand how to leverage the platform, review final integration steps, and offer guidance to unlock the full potential of the platform.
Customers are encouraged to customize alerts, personalize their seedlist with our patent-pending seedlist optimizer, and tailor their deliverability dashboards to track what matters most. Need more help? Our on-demand Support and Experts teams come standard to provide insight, guidance, and confidence in leveraging our products and data.
How many customers come to you proactively for deliverability monitoring vs. those who come calling because of an acute inboxing problem?
Pain often creates a sense of urgency in any sales process, and our customers are no different. It is very common for customers to reach out for help when pressing email issues are impacting revenue. We also see a fair amount of customers who understand the value of monitoring email performance and analytics and strategically partner with us to maximize email performance and better equip them to mitigate problems before they arise.
Our data-driven products and 250ok Experts provide any marketer the right insights and guidance to solve any deliverability problem tactfully and with confidence. We strive to provide data and solutions to not only solve immediate email challenges, but set up our customers for long-term, sustained success.
Which email clients do your larger customers tend to have the hardest time optimizing for?
Regardless of the size of the customer, Gmail and G-Suite domains are often the most challenging mail clients to successfully deliver to. Gmail has more than 1.5 billion users globally and is the most sophisticated mailbox provider when considering machine learning filtering decisions and design opportunities available to marketers. Gmail also will likely be the majority or near-majority of a large customer’s email list, so when issues arise, the impact is felt immediately.
Gmail always leads in innovation, inbox experience, and spam filtering technology and is quite good at determining wanted versus unwanted mail. Our customers often find that what works well with other mailbox providers doesn’t quite cut it with Gmail or G-Suite domains, and thus they must refine their strategy to reach their customers at this popular mailbox provider.
Do you offer any trial testing or audits ahead of contracts being signed?
We do not offer free trials to prospective customers. We do demos of our platform where we leverage prospects’ live data based on their email domains and sending IPs to provide a realistic evaluation of what our platform can offer to their business.
We also encourage potential customers to connect with our growing list of satisfied clientele and references to learn how 250ok has helped them to drive more revenue from email.
What is your favorite case study so far that illustrates the obvious ROI of reputation health?
Furniture Row came to us as a market leader in deliverability with a top-tier ESP, with concerns over poor sender reputation at Gmail, resulting in low inbox placement and conversion with their subscribers.
To make matters worse, Gmail made up nearly 60 percent of Furniture Row’s active database, escalating the revenue impact from their email channel. After partnering with our Experts team through onboarding and an initial health check, we identified several areas of improvement, including email collection practices, list hygiene tactics, and authentication missteps. By providing a prescriptive assessment and identifying key opportunities, we laid out a blueprint with Furniture Row to optimize reputation and email practices to improve overall deliverability and email ROI.
Within a few weeks, Furniture Row saw inbox placement at Gmail lift by nearly 15 percent, a 6.8 percent lift in open rates, and more than a 5 percent lift in click rates. They also reported a decrease in email throttling, phishing attempts against their brand, and an improvement in domain reputation at Gmail from medium to high.
Finally, what are the things that even savvy email marketers don’t yet realize or fully understand about the complexities of deliverability?
There is an ingrained notion that by following best practices, deliverability will take care of itself and not cause concern. The truth is, deliverability is an artform, and not something that is set-and-forget. It demands constant management.
Mastering deliverability requires an ongoing thirst for education, dedication to refining your marketing craft, and discipline in measuring and analyzing performance. 250ok was founded to be a guiding light for marketers intent on conquering the complexities of deliverability.
Thanks for reading!
If you enjoyed this interview and would like to receive more strategic email marketing content from me, please check out 10 Billion Emails. You can sign up for the intro to the series below for free.